Sustainability in the DMC District

Sustainability is an increasingly hot topic in community development and construction, but it’s hardly a new concept. One of DMC’s guiding principles is for the initiative to be a model for sustainability that will strive to implement ecological urban design and building practices to improve and enhance the environment and quality of life.

To help achieve this goal, DMC and the City of Rochester hired Kevin Bright as a shared Sustainability Director to support the community’s efforts to go green. The position is funded by a two-year McKnight Foundation grant.

Bright is trained as an environmental geologist. His interest in resource consumption of buildings evolved as he was working on his master’s in energy and environmental analysis. He spent five years working at Harvard University in their Green Building Services Department and then took a position at Maine’s Colby College where he created the institution’s Sustainability Office and programs from the ground up. (Colby was recently ranked 9th in Sierra Club’s nation-wide Cool School ranking, based on the depth and breadth of their sustainability and environmental programs, beating out schools like Harvard and Stanford.)

Among its goals, the DMC sustainability framework aspires to uphold energy efficiency by reducing total energy use through conservation and efficiency solutions. The energy efficiency target cited in the DMC sustainability framework plan is a 25 percent reduction in total energy use. It is expected the energy reduction goal will be achieved by employing both conservation and efficiency solutions.

Bright says Rochester, like most cities nationwide, has room for opportunity. “There are certainly areas where we can achieve a reduction in comparison to past baselines,” Bright says, citing energy, water, waste, efficient transportation, and greenhouse gases, to name a few.

Locally, there are several energy efficiency efforts already in place, helping to lessen Rochester’s environmental impact.

People’s Food Co-op in downtown Rochester implemented composting in 2016. The store’s signage and education classes provide ways for customers to learn more about the process. “Places like the Co-op let people get comfortable with the idea of composting and learn more about how they can implement the practice in their home or business.” The Co-op’s composting system redirects up to 80 percent of what would have otherwise gone into a landfill. While the method saves the business money, the real value of it is in helping to maintain a healthy environment.

You don’t have to be a gardening enthusiast to appreciate the impact composting can have on a community. Bright says about 40% of household waste is from compostable waste, and a significant amount of that could be composted in their backyard. In Maine, Bright’s home state, counties offer below-cost backyard composters to help reduce food waste. “[That waste] can also be used to create energy,” Bright says. “Here in Rochester, composting isn’t something that’s pitched by garbage collection companies or Olmsted County currently, so it provides another opportunity for us to reduce our waste, while possibly generating heat and power at the same time.”

According to Bright, Mayo Clinic has a robust energy-reduction system in place. “Their goal is 20 percent reduction by 2020,” he says. The clinic has already achieved a 16 percent reduction from their comparison baseline. “Mayo is a good model for the community to learn from,” Bright says.

The new First Avenue Flats multi-family housing development is the first apartment complex in Rochester to pursue a Green Communities Certification. Bright says a Building Energy Model was completed for the facility, and it modeled to perform 20 percent below current energy code. “This project is a great example of providing affordable units, while also ensuring their on-going costs are affordable as well. It serves as a model for all future development,” Bright says.

DMC’s sustainability goals will be updated periodically along with the DMC Development Plan, as required by the DMC legislation. These updates present opportunities to make improvements, as well as incorporate “lessons learned” and new sustainability goals.

If environmental or sustainability issues are a personal passion, there are many ways to get involved and meet other like-minded community members. Sitting in on a City of Rochester Energy Commission meeting (2nd Tuesday of each month from 4:30 – 6 pm), attending a Green Drinks Event for those who are age-appropriate, or attending the city’s EarthFest event are all a few great ways to get more involved. Not sure where to start? Feel free to reach out to Kevin directly at [email protected].